When I was a child, Easter was a big event. We’d wake up early and hunt for the basket. It was a magical time, and the excitement was high. The yard was filled with new green grass, and the crocus and jonquils were in bloom.Everything smelled wonderful.
We looked for the Easter Bunny and his treasure. We knew Easter baskets would be filled with gifts, goodies and treasures to delight any child. Chocolate bunnies and eggs, tiny trinkets and games to play, all wrapped in cellophane and tied up with bows. After we found the baskets, we went to church to learn about God’s greatest gift to mankind.
As I have grown up, the glory of the Easter Bunny has lost his appeal. The chocolate bunnies and eggs have faded into the background, but God’s greatest gift occupies the most prominent place on Easter morning. It’s God’s Easter basket I look for every spring. I am filled with great joy when I think of the gifts of God, wrapped in celestial cellophane and tied up in eternal bows.
The first gift of God wrapped up in the basket is the gift of His Son. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The gifts scattered in the basket around that gift are many and varied. I can name only a few of the gifts that have come to me because of that great gift of Jesus Christ.
When I was a child, I was taught to pray at my parents’ knee. They had faith, and their prayers were answered in many miracles. When I was a child, I teetered between life and death after a terrible burn. My parents’ prayed daily and sincerely, and in the depths of humility, they asked and listened.
God spoke to them in the voice of the Holy Spirit. The thought came into both of their minds simultaneously: “Change doctors.” They followed the instruction, and I eventually was healed.
Another time, my brother Bobby and my uncle Frank were stranded in a snowstorm. Their vehicle died, and Uncle Frank told Bobby, “You stay right here while I walk for help. Don’t go to sleep.”
Bobby, a boy of 12, didn’t understand the danger of going to sleep in the snow, but prayers can change a boy’s mind. My mother’s prayers reached the heavens. She know Bobby was in danger and prayed for his safety.
When Bobby fell sound asleep, a voice as audible as you and I speaking with each other said, “Bobby wake up.” It startled him so much that he woke up and started walking around. Bobby never dozed again that night; he stayed alert until help came. My mother’s prayer was answered.
Mine and Bobby’s miracles are only two of many I have witnessed in my life. The gifts of faith and prayer are truly magnificent. Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). The gift of faith and prayer are shining in God’s Easter basket.
One of my favorite hymns tells of the greatest gift Jesus gave, and it is right there in God’s Easter basket waiting to be opened.
I Stand All Amazed
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me
Oh, it is wonderful
Wonderful to me
I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine
That he should extend his great love unto such as I
Sufficient to own, to redeem and to justify
I think of his hands, pierced and bleeding to pay my debt
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Secure in the promise of life in his victory
Thus ransomed from death I will live to my Savior’s praise
And sing of his goodness and mercy through endless days
Jesus gave me the privilege of repenting of my sins. He allowed me to say, “I’m sorry,” and start all over again. Not only will He forgive me, He will walk with me every step of the way back through the darkness into the light. When I think of the price He paid for me, it is overwhelming sometimes. I can’t comprehend the value He has placed on me.
In our world, we count the value of something by the price we pay for it. The higher the price, the more valuable the object is. Jesus paid the ultimate price to ransom us individually from sin and the grave. What value He placed on every living soul on the face of the earth. He even paid the price for those who will never turn to Him. That love is all-encompassing.
Some people would say, “It is easier to die for a cause than to live for it,” but Jesus did that too. Every day of His life was dedicated to marking a path for people to follow. It was a path that would lead to unrestrained joy.
Sure there would be adversities along the way, but He is always there to comfort and strengthen. His teachings work. They are not unattainable maxims. If we follow Him as He promises, “... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The abundant life does not mean worldly riches, necessarily, though His followers might grow rich. The abundant life means a life full of meaning and purpose. It is a joy-filled life without the entanglements of sin and depression. The abundant life is one of those gifts that are hidden there in God’s Easter basket.
The other part of the gift Christ gave to the world was resurrection. When my brother passed away, I walked through the cemetery in Heber, Arizona. It is an old-fashioned cemetery, no grass, not even a stone fence, just a peaceful place set back beside a hill of limestone and pine trees.
As I looked at the headstones, I could see the faces of those whom I had known. There was Grandma and Grandpa Despain, and Grandma and Grandpa Crandell, my brother Bobby and my brother-in-law Roger, and a myriad of uncles, aunts and friends who I had known.
It was almost as though I could hear their voices in the silence of the graveyard. There were babies and children beneath the ground. What would that walk through the cemetery be like without the gift of Jesus Christ, who said, “... I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
When Easter morning comes, I am not a child looking for an Easter basket and the Easter Bunny in the garden of newborn spring. I am a child of God sorting though His Easter basket on my knees. Gratitude fills my soul to overflowing. How can I forget the love He has so willingly showered upon me and my loved ones?
The older I get, the more meaningful life becomes. The more I understand the price that was paid for me, the more I realize what wonderful gifts are stored away in that eternal Easter basket. I just have to rip open the celestial cellophane of the Scriptures and search through the basket with daily fervent prayers of faith to realize what I have been given. PD